Welcome to my world…

So I retire my old screwgun and bring the new one into work.  We have an Embraer in for check and one of the gripes is a couple of missing screws in one of the panels on the leading edge of the right wing.  Easy enough.  I’ll just go grab a couple of new screws, zip into place, and bada boom, bada bing, task complete.   Except the screws are still in the panel.  Or part of them are at least.  Someone tried, at some point, to pull these screws out for some reason and stripped the heads off.  The standard fix when that happens is to get a drill and a set of extractors and pull the bad hardware out. 

Said panel wraps around the front of the wing giving the wing that lovely curved shape.  It’s about seven feet long and a foot or so thick at the back end where it fastens to the main structure inside the wing itself.  Holding the panel on are just over 120 screws.  I managed to get 16 out without stripping them; the other 104 were just plain stubborn.  So I get my new drill, a couple of brand new bits, my EZ-Out extractors, and set to work. 

Ez-outs are a hardened steel tool that has grooves called flutes cut into them.  The flutes are cut in the opposite direction of rotation from a drill bit so they draw the ez-out into the hole as you turn them counterclockwise. The way you work an ez-out is this:  Drill a hole in the center of the screw down through the stripped screw head.  You have to drill a little deeper than you’d expect.  Tap the ez-out into the hole you just drilled with a few taps of a hammer, grab the ez-out with a pair of vise grips, and unscrew the screw. 

Drill, tap  tap-turn-tap-turn-tap, cuss, tap-turn, and out it comes. Repeat. And again, and again, and again….    By the time I finished, three hours had gone by, I’d replaced and recharged the batteries in the drill a couple of times, and sounded like a woodpecker hammering on an old oak.  My hands felt like someone had been beating on them with a ball bat and I was leaking from a couple dozen little cuts.  All to replace two little nutplates with broken off screws.


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